WATCH: Taking a look at the state of gender inequality on International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day, marked on March 8, is now the second to land during the COVID-19 pandemic. While the pandemic has touched every part of life across the globe, a new report by the United Nations Foundation details the extent that women bear the brunt of any major societal shifts.

The United Nations Foundation, a private non-profit organization founded to support the U.N. released a report detailing 50 data points on how women continue to face inequality in the workplace, at home and in government–only to be amplified by the pandemic.

“We were already on a slide backwards even before the pandemic set women back further,” said U.N. Foundation Vice President for Girls and Women Strategy Michelle Milford Morse.

Watch the conversation with PBS NewsHour’s Nicole Ellis in the live player above.

“When women don’t work, they lose out on retirement. They lose out on benefits. It makes childcare harder to afford. But even beyond workforce participation, the pandemic has shown us where places in which our social and economic structures frankly are really vulnerable.”

According to the National Women’s Law Center, female workers made up 63% of jobs lost in the U.S. during the first two years of the pandemic, and nearly 2 million are still out of the workforce. While the U.N. foundation report focuses on data about the inequality women and girls faced outside of the pandemic, Milford Morse said COVID-19 highlighted and in some instances, exacerbated those inequities.

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Gender pay gaps persist

According to the report, 98 countries are not legally required to provide equal pay for equal work. But Milford Morse said this disparity can be fixed by government policy and employers, including ensuring that more women are represented in management.

“The pay gap is one of those gaps that has remained really stubborn over the past couple of decades,” she said. “But there’s a lot that employers can do to create workplaces that work for women. They can make sure that they have women at all levels of leadership in all levels of the company.”

California has a law that requires at least one woman on the board of publicly held companies with headquarters in the state, which is currently being challenged in court. Milford Morse said the idea behind that law, creating space for women in company leadership, is simply good business.

“Companies that are more inclusive and have more parity, they have better returns,” she said. They have higher profits. They have lower turnover. They are places in which people want to work. They also win the battles for the best talent.”

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No place where women are equal?

The U.N. Foundation study said gender equity is a global problem. Milford Morse said that while there have been gains, including more visible women leaders, more still needs to be done.

“There’s a gap between the optics, what people see when it comes to gender equality and what’s really happening,” she said. “We have our first female vice president. We have women running Fortune 500 companies. But the data underneath that is still compelling all over the world when it comes to things like pay gaps, violence, the maternal mortality, and the degree to which women are subject to these discriminatory laws are blocked from economic opportunity.”

Women of color face worse disparities

The report shows some data that women of color aren’t given the same opportunities as white women in certain industries. Milford Morse said that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to women of color.

“Those gaps are bigger for Black women. They are bigger for women of color. These gaps are wider and steeper for trans women, for migrant women, for rural women and for young women,” she said. “There are overlapping levels of discrimination. We should also always acknowledge that not everyone is having the same experience.”

Hope for the future

According to the report, “more than 1,500 reforms have been passed over the past five decades to dismantle sexist rules and regulations, and progress on this front has been achieved in every region of the world.”

Milford Morse said that while disparity persists when it comes to women’s equality, countries are slowly moving to level the playing field. And, she said it shouldn’t be a difficult move when it comes to actual change.

“We don’t need a leap in science or technology, we don’t need any magic here,” she said. “We need more political will. We need more solidarity and we need better policy.”